Title: Imperfect Mirror

Author: Silver Queen

"You look like twins," Aya gasps, but Sigmund doesn't need her confirmation. Something in him, bone deep, recognises the boy.

It isn't the face, because Sigmund's has never worn that particular expression of painful awe and worry.

"Lord Sigmund?" Aya questions, voice uncertain.

"Never mind," he tells her. It isn't something he can explain, and even if he could, he doubts he would share it with her. Genma or Eugene maybe, but Aya and Edward are too young, too eager and earnest; they have built their lives around him, as though he is a rock to stand on. If he should falter, they would crumble.

"Thank you," he says to Capell, extending his hand. Whoever he is, whatever has brought him here, there is no doubt that he was helping Aya. "You have done us a great service. I am Sigmund."

Slowly and cautiously, the boy takes his hand. His grip is light. "I'm Capell," he says.

Of course, Sigmund thinks, ludicrously, as though he should have known.

"It's dangerous here," he says instead. "Come with us. Can you stand?" he asks belatedly. Capell is still sitting where Aya tackled him to avoid the arrows. Sigmund doubts that Capell is injured, but then Aya doesn't seem injured either, so why was he carrying her?

Capell just nods in response and Sigmund hauls him to his feet via their still clasped hands. He is lighter than expected, everything about him seems light and soft, but there is a wariness in his eyes that says it is not naiveté.

"Thank you," he says, breathless.

"No need for that now," Sigmund says abruptly, turning away. Whatever conversations they need to have, they will have later. They are still in he middle of a dark forest, and there is always the danger of reinforcements.

"Edward," he calls. "We will return to camp. Lead the way."

"So, you're just going to let her die?" Capell asks softly. He cares for Aya, Sigmund realises, despite the fact that he does not know her well.

"She's one of us," Edward says furiously. "That's why we have to leave her! Aya will regret it if she becomes a burden. That is why we have to go and destroy the chain. It's for her sake too!"

"Ed is right," Eugene agrees, always pragmatic. "This is the manner in which things happen."

But Sigmund isn't listening. They cannot delay the destruction of the chain. They cannot. But to merely leave Aya to die isn't something that he can accept. She would be willing, more than willing, to sacrifice herself for the cause, which is why she has been hiding the extent of her injuries from them, but Sigmund will accept death only as a last resort.

"There is a village nearby," he says slowly, planning their next move. Tactics come easily to him, and for that he is grateful. "Nolaan."

"Yes," Genma says, ever the fount of knowledge. What he says next Sigmund knows but cannot remember where he learnt it. "As I recall, the village has a deep tie to the Claridian of Burguss."

A Claridian might be able to help her. They are the guardians of the people, infused with a power greater than that of lunaglyphs, stronger than even the strongest of aristos. It is a small chance, the tiniest of possibilities, but it is enough.

"Good," he says, decided. The others wont like this. "Aya will be taken there for proper treatment."

Eugene protests immediately. "But we can't put off destroying the chain any longer!" The longer the chains are in place, the greater the damage becomes. More monsters, more disease, the land becomes infertile and crops fail. People panic and riot. Destroying the chain will reverse some damage, but the longer they are in place, the longer the damage will last. The chain at Castle Prevant has already been in place for too long.

"Capell. I want you to carry out this task," he continues, ignoring Eugene. He cannot tell who is more shocked by his request, the Force or Capell himself.

"Me?" Capell stutters over the chorus of disbelief from the Force.

"Wait, my lord!" Edward protests, despite Eugene attempting to restrain him. "We cannot trust this boy! I'll do it, my lord, I'll drop Aya off at Nolaan and return to your side immediately!"

"And what about the chain?" Sigmund asks. Edward makes a good point. They should not trust Capell. They do not know him. He is not a fighter. They have yet to even discuss his and Aya's escape through the woods. But it is all irrelevant.

He does trust him.

He will be courageous and kind. His name shall be Capell.

It should worry him, trusting this stranger with his own face. Trusting him without cause or reason. He can rationalise it. Capell helped Aya escape. He's still here. He's worried about her. Better to have him out of the battle. We have nothing to lose anyway.

"I trust you, Capell," he says, resting his hand on the boys shoulder. He speaks only the truth. "I leave Aya in your care."

"You cannot leave Aya with this coward!" Edward objects desperately. "We cannot trust him."

Sigmund ignores him. "You wont let me down, will you?" he asks.

Capell swallows, but tentatively shakes his head. "No, I'll go. I'll take her to Nolaan."

If he were a more emotional man, Sigmund might have smiled. Instead, he draws his sword and presents the hilt to Capell. "Take this sword with you."

"I don't need a sword!" Capell says quickly, hands raised in an almost defensive way.

"It was given to me by the King of Burguss," Sigmund explains. "It bears the royal emblem on its hilt. It will grant you safe passage. I will entrust you with it. Whether you unsheathe it or not is up to you." He suspects Capell will need it. The Luca plains are filled with monsters and travel will not be easy.

Gingerly, Capell takes the sword. "Well, if you insist."

Sigmund nods in acknowledgement and clasps a hand on his shoulder. "Take care of Aya," he says and walks away.

Still, he hears Capell's soft "I will" floating on the breeze behind him.